There are three main starting points for your journey to Yangon from the Inle Lake area: Nyaungshwe village, where the bulk of the accommodation geared towards visitors is located; Shwenyaung, 13 km north of Nyaungshwe; Taunggyi, a town 30 km northeast of Nyaungshwe; and Heho, which is the closest airport for Inle Lake. Travelling by bus, train and plane is possible, though the length and the cost of your journey can vary tremendously. Before buying your ticket to Yangon, read the information below to choose the means of transport which suits you best.
Flights from Inle Lake to Yangon
The airport for Inle Lake is located in Heho. A taxi from Nyaungshwe to Heho should cost MMK15,000/USD11. The ride takes about one hour, and flying time to Yangon is one hour 10 minutes.
Flying is the fastest and most comfortable way to travel in Myanmar, especially taking into account the road conditions which till relatively recently have had much to be desired and the slow pace of the trains in Myanmar. Fly in the ointment in case with flights is the exaggerated cost of the tickets. Regardless the number of domestic companies which serve the route between Heho and Yangon and supporting over a dozen daily flights, prices do not drop much lower than MMK200,000/USD150, and as a great chunk of this amount goes directly to governmental pockets competition is not encouraged.
In Yangon, Yangon International airport lies 17 km north from the Central Railway Station. It is not served by public transport – in the sense that no bus or train comes right up to the terminal building, but you still can get to the city by bus or train though some walking or a short ride is necessary. Bus N51 goes from Sel Maing Kone bus stop to Suli Paya. The bus stop is about 2.5 km from the terminal building. A ride costs MMK200 or MMK300 only. The closest to the airport circular train station, Pa Ywet Seik Kone, is about 2 km far. The train costs MMK100 and brings you to the Central Railway station. The official taxi rate from the airport is MMK8.000/USD8.
From Inle Lake to Yangon by train
The closest to Inle Lake and Nyaungshwe train station is located in Shwenyaung. There is one direct train a day from Shwenyaung to Yangon; it is train #142 leaving Shwenyaung at 8am and arriving to Yangon at 2.40pm the next day, taking in total almost 30 hours. It is slow, painfully slow, and it also makes a three-hour stop at the interchange station of Thazi – though you do not need to change trains in this case.
There are no sleepers in train #142 – choose between ordinary class seats and upper class seats. If bought from Myanmar, upper class seats should cost about MMK15,000/USD11, and ordinary class seats normally sell at half the price. Buying from abroad, be ready to pay double price for the same tickets.
Note Though there is a whole wealth of travel agencies in Nyaungshwe catering virtually for all possible travel needs, they neither book nor sell train tickets. If you want to travel by train, arrange your trip online or go directly to Shwenyaung train station to (try to) buy tickets on the spot.
Note also that though travelling by train looks like quite a budget friendly way to get to Yangon, it is far from being comfortable.
There is another option to travel from Inle Lake to Yangon by train which requires slightly less time. Train #142 remains the only one you can take to get from Shwenyaung to Thazi, so leave Shwenyaung at 8am – you will reach Thazi by 7pm the same day. In Thazi you can in theory catch train #4 which departs at 7.49pm – in less than an hour from the moment you arrive to Thazi from Inle Lake.
Three main reasons to connect via Thazi are:
1) Train #4 along with ordinary and upper class seats has sleeping carriages, too.
2) Train #4 takes 12 hours to get from Thazi to Yangon while train #142 needs almost 17!
3) Train #4 leaves Thazi two hours before than train #142 does thus cutting 7 hours of your total travel time.
The main concern though is that you can miss this connection. Trains in Myanmar normally do stick to their schedule but it is still quite possible that on that very day of your travel #142 by some reason will come to Thazi an hour later. Anyway, you can always continue your journey on the same train #142, so the risks are not too high.
From Inle Lake to Yangon by bus
The two main locations in the Inle Lake area to hop onto a Yangon-bound bus are Nyaungshwe and Taunggyi. Nyaungshwe is obviously a more preferable one as buses depart from close to guesthouses and hotels – the village does not even have a proper bus station.
Buses take about 12 hours to reach Yangon, and a certain stretch of the route is quite winding – come prepared and be ready to find your fellow passengers vomiting all around you – we are not joking!
Tip: Having some warm clothes at hand while travelling by bus in Myanmar is a matter of survival: air-conditioning is excessive and blankets provided on night trips do not help much.
Depending on the type of the bus tickets may cost from MMK16,000/USD12 to MMK30,000/USD22. VIP night buses depart between 5pm and 7pm. There is at least one daytime bus at 9am but unless you are strongly against night trips or have to get to Yangon by all means this very day, it is not a good choice.
Tip: Buses from Inle Lake to Yangon normally pass via Bago (10 hours; tickets normally cost the same as the full fare to Yangon). Ask your driver to drop you off there (in Bago proper if your bus calls to the city or at the highway where you can flag down some transport to Kunpin if the Golden Rock (Mount Kyaiktiyo) is on your list.
Why go to Yangon
Till relatively recently Yangon has been the only gateway to the country for any international visitor. Now there are international flights to Mandalay and a number of border crossings with Thailand are open to foreigners, too. Yet the former capital of Myanmar, Yangon, remains a must-visit stop on every Burmese travel itinerary. A melting pot of cultures, Yangon experienced and absorbed British, Indian and Chinese influences. Their traces can be found in rich though dilapidating colonial architecture, leafy boulevards, busy markets and Burmese curries. One of the most exotic cities in South East Asia, Yangon conquers hearts with its colourful mix of golden pagodas, exotic garments of the locals and sincere smiles showing blood-red teeth busy with chewing betel nut. Though a couple of years ago a lot of restrictions concerning foreign tourists have been done away with and you will no longer get a compulsory Internet detox while visiting Yangon and the rest of the country, there are relatively few international visitors around. Visit now until it is too late!
Onward travel from Yangon
Yangon obviously has great transport connections with both Mandalay and Bagan, but it makes no sense to get to Yangon from Inle Lake to continue your journey to either of them: go directly from Inle Lake to Mandalay or from Inle Lake to Bagan instead.
Destinations southeast of Yangon, including Mawlamyine and Thaton can be reached either by bus or train; there is even a daily flight to Mawlamyine now taking 40 minutes but costing MMK200,000/USD150. From either of the cities you can then head by bus to Hpa-An for some relaxed sightseeing or to Myawaddy on the border with Thailand, cross the border and continue your journey around Thailand from Mae Sot.